Allied Health Professionals Research Projects

Mental health social workers and palliative and end-of-life care

The concerns of social work, both broadly and in the field of palliative and end-of-life care, include issues of individual personality, vulnerability and resilience, family functioning, personal relationships, strengths and stressors, support networks, culture, community, class, ethnicity and gender. Additionally it includes aspects of existential functioning, spirituality and religion. At the macro level, there are concerns with broader social issues of economic wellbeing, employment and housing.

In 2009, the Amaranth Foundation received a Commonwealth grant to develop a primary health model of care that integrated mental health assessment and interventions into palliative and end-of-life care pathways, focusing on rural communities. This project, Your Mind Does Matter, enabled the Foundation to develop a resource document supporting the role and clinical skills of social work in this critical field of practice.

This model of care integrates the skills and philosophies of mental health social work: the knowledge and skills in providing therapeutic interventions for people experiencing grief, loss and the impacts of trauma; an understanding of attachment theory, crisis theory, systems theory, and existentialism; dignity therapy; and the capacity to assist people to develop advance care planning and to support individuals, families and communities in bereavement.

In 2012 the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) supported the PhD research project being undertaken by Julianne Whyte, CEO of Amaranth Foundation, in the development of competency and practice standards for social workers in palliative and end-of-life care. This research will provide the framework for social workers to work in both specialist and generalist roles across the acute and primary health care sectors.

A discussion document related to this research will be available for the AASW by the end of 2013. Invitations are open for interested social workers to contribute to this discussion and people can contact Julianne directly at

Julianne Whyte
RN, BSW, MHSW (Accred), MAASW, PhD Candidate
OSWA -Education and Palliative Care Chairs, CSU- Academic Liaison Officer      
CEO Amaranth Foundation

Last updated 23 January 2017